A secret EUR1m operation was approved by the Pope to rescue a Colombian nun kidnapped from Mali.
Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, an al Qaeda-linked organization, was captured by the Macina Liberation Front in February 2017. She was released last year.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu is one of the ten defendants in trial for corruption. He claimed Pope Francis authorized the bid to release her. After being told that it would only cost EUR1m (PS856,000 at most) and require a ransom, as well as setting up a “contact system”, he was released.
“He approved. “I must tell you that every stage of that operation was approved and authorized by the Holy Father,” Becciu (73), told a Vatican court Thursday.
The cardinal denied any improper relationships with a 41 year-old Italian woman, nicknamed “cardinal’s Lady” by Italian media. She was acting as an intermediary in the operation.
Becciu claimed that Cecilia Marogna (also a defendant) had connected him with a London-based intelligence and risk firm in 2018.
He said that a special account was created and that payments were made to Marogna’s specified accounts.
According to the cardinal the London firm had made contact with the kidnappers but he didn’t confirm whether a ransom was paid.
Because of fears that a leak could have “endangered lives and safety of others missionaries”, the Vatican’s head for security was told to the court.
Becciu was the Vatican’s deputy secretary-of-state between 2011-2018. He is charged with aiding embezzlement and abuse of office as well as inducing a witness into perjury. The charges are denied by Becciu.
Two years ago, Pope Francis dismissed Becciu from his position as Vatican’s saint-making chief. He accused him of nepotism for his brothers, a charge that he also denies.
He took the cardinal’s oath to secrecy two months ago so that he could answer the questions at the trial.
Marogna was charged with embezzling EUR575,000 of the Vatican’s secretariat for state.
Prosecutors allege that she bought luxury goods and used it for her personal gain. She also denied any wrongdoing.
According to the cardinal, his relationship with her was “distorted” with “offensive insinuations” which were “harmful for my priestly dignity”.
The trial centers on the purchase by the secretariat of a London property as part of a EUR350m capital investment. This went wrong, resulting in a EUR217m loss.
Two Italian brokers were charged with extortion. Other defendants included ex-Vatican staff members and officials involved in the deal. All three of them deny any wrongdoing.
The trial continues.